Thursday, October 13, 2005

Famous Pinter Wins Nobel

Portrait of Harold Pinter by Justin Mortimer, 1992, National Portrait Gallery, London

Harold Pinter has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 75. His views and literature about the wars in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq have garnered him much attention, awards and backlash. Amongst other causes, he has also been outspoken on behalf of the Kurds in Turkey, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and freedom of speech worldwide. Notably, in the UK one can still have a successful public career while opposing the government -- something that is very much not the case in the United States. In Pinter's case, you can also be openly anti-American:

God Bless America

Here they go again,
The Yanks in their armoured parade
Chanting their ballads of joy
As they gallop across the big world
Praising America's God.

The gutters are clogged with the dead
The ones who couldn't join in
The others refusing to sing
The ones who are losing their voice
The ones who've forgotten the tune.

The riders have whips which cut.
Your head rolls onto the sand
Your head is a pool in the dirt
Your head is a stain in the dust
Your eyes have gone out and your nose
Sniffs only the pong of the dead
And all the dead air is alive
With the smell of America's God.

- Harold Pinter (January 2003)

Certainly, the British government, no less than the American government, does not appreciate being contradicted but there's a big difference between the large-scale threat of a 75-year-old writer and a 40-year-old rock star like John Lennon -- in terms of charisma and accumulating public support for a cause. This is just another example of the shrewdness of British politics -- when you let people be free, to a certain extent, rather than control every aspect of their lives, they will ultimately be less of a threat to your establishment. Is America too far gone to start letting go now? I think that's what the suits in Washington believe and that will eventually be the catalyst for their demise. It's like that analogy of the stiff, dry branch: one rough wind and it will break.